Danish Maersk Group transported tons of illegal timber from Mozambique to China

Grupo dinamarquês Maersk transportou toneladas de madeira ilegal de Moçambique para a China

The Danish Maersk Group has in recent years transported several shipments of illegal timber from Mozambique to China, an investigation by journalists in Maputo and Denmark published yesterday reveals..

The company transported illegal timber from Mozambique to China several times between 2019 and 2021," write the Danish Danwatch and Zitamar News, with offices in Maputo and London, citing transports that amounted to thousands of tons.

Consultation of documents allowed confirmation of several cargoes, such as one on February 04, 2020, when a container ship owned by the Danish giant arrived at the port of Ningbo, China, having on board 255 tons of illegal timber from Beira, Mozambique.

More specifically, whole, unprocessed trunks of the reddish-brown tropical tree species Nkula, which is only found in a few African countries and is estimated to be close to extinction? the report, cited by Lusa, states.

In January 2020 two other Maersk ships arrived at the same port in China with 4,000 tons of illegal timber from Mozambique, another of the Chinese import data that Danwatch and Zitamar News obtained through C4ADS, a U.S. body that does data collection focused on illicit trade and global security.

There are also records in 2019 and 2021, these and other cargoes of Nkula, Mondzo and Chanato, all valuable timber varieties and on the Mozambican authorities' native species list.

The Danish giant, which has not denied having made this transport, is not expressly violating the law, explain the authors of the article after consulting Mozambican law and experts in the field, but they denounce a practice that the group says it condemns and that it does so by circumventing the law.

Maersk acknowledges that it has a responsibility to ensure that the cargo on the ships is legal, but holds back on the analysis that it is up to the authorities to approve a product for export.

This is because Mozambique's law for timber exports only says that the export of unprocessed timber of native species is not allowed, but the ban makes no reference to transportation or logistics.

In its latest sustainability report, Maersk writes that it is ?particularly concerned to curb the illegal timber trade? and that it is its policy ?not to tolerate the transport of wild animals and plants prohibited by international or national law? the article reads.

"We are aware that there are challenges, but it is a complex area," Maersk wrote in an email response to Danwatch and Zitamar News, saying it believes it is doing what it can to track cargo on board its ships.

Denmark's ambassador to Mozambique between 2011 and 2015, Mogens Pedersen, consulted as part of this investigation, assured that the shipping giant has long known about the risk of its container ships being used to transport illegal timber from Mozambique to China.

Two of the exporters who shipped "tropical" timber out of Mozambique via the ships MAERSK DOUALA and MAERSK NACALA have since been caught breaking Mozambique's timber laws.

Scientists estimate that deforestation ? caused by both the illegal timber trade and charcoal production ? has made Mozambique more fragile to cyclones, the government estimates losses due to this trade at billions of euros, and institutions like Mozambique's Institute for Social and Economic Studies warn that the funds raised help finance attacks by Islamist rebels, such as those that have occurred since 2017 in Cabo Delgado.

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